Archive | May, 2014

WIPS Conversation: Harold Jaffe on His Work in Progress

Hal Jaffe-ICHarold Jaffe is the author of 22 volumes of fiction, novels, docufiction, and essays, most recently Anti-Twitter: 150 50-Word Stories, OD, Paris 60, Revolutionary Brain, Othello Blues, and Induced Coma: 50 & 100 Word Stories. His books have been translated in France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Japan, Cuba, Turkey, Romania and elsewhere. Jaffe is editor-in-chief of Fiction International.



Hal, this collection covers a broad range of subjects, what with around 150 stories. Still, Induced Coma, the “degraded version of Nirvana,” is an intriguing opening piece and an apropos appellation for the entire collection. Can you discuss how the title “Induced Coma” speaks to the book as a whole?

The world is perishing and we’re being fed bromides. Long before global warming the British socalist thinker Raymond Williams wrote that if there were a great and vast peril, world leaders would do one of two things: lie about it to service their constituency and maintain status; or simply, stupidly, not comprehend the peril. Williams was right. We are compelled to witness the consequences of global warming in banally capitalized ways: pop movies featuring post-apocalyptic zombies; biological humans miming cyborgs for an inorganic protection; undisguised economic cruelties toward the disadvantaged.

There was formerly an invisible line which demarked a relative civility; in our collective but largely unacknowledged panic, that line has been oficially eroded. Many humans sense the horrific dangers and act them out without, as it were, inhabiting them. Induced coma.

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Harold Jaffe: An Excerpt from Induced Coma



The owner of a spider had no idea his pet was the problem when
he came to an eye clinic for treatment.
When the doctor told him she saw tiny hairs sticking out of his
eyeball he remembered cleaning the terrarium of his Chilean
Rose tarantula.
While his attention was briefly focused elsewhere, he sensed movement
in the terrarium.
The tarantula had released a mist of hairs which brushed his eyes
and face.
The hairs have multiple barbs encouraging them to migrate through
the eye tissue to various depths.

Doctors advise anyone working with tarantulas to wear eye protection.

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WIPs Conversation: Sarah Seltzer on Her Work in Progress

Sarah SeltzerSarah Marian Seltzer is a winner of the 2013 Lilith Fiction Prize, and has had fiction published in fwriction: Review, Blue Lyra Review, Joyland, and elsewhere. She received her MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts, and is a journalist in New York City with nonfiction bylines in The Forward, XoJane, LA Review of Books, Vulture, The Hairpin, Ms. Magazine and The Nation, among many other places. Her novel-in-progress, “Joy, Somewhere in the City,” was awarded a grant from the Hadassah-Brandeis Institute. Find her on Twitter at @sarahmseltzer or on Tumblr at

Sarah, “After the Bar Mitzvah” finds Sharon on a high, basking in the praise and special attention coming her way after the huge success of “Camp Cameron,” which she planned in its entirety. Was the event (and what led up to it) arguably more important for her than her son?

One reading of Sharon’s behavior would say yes, it’s eclipsed her son. Perhaps the bar-mitzvah started out as a way to help Cam, but it morphed into this outlet for a talented woman who is otherwise unfulfilled. I’d also argue that there’s a second layer: Sharon realizes during the weekend that Cameron, who has himself been the major focus of her considerable energy, is getting older and won’t need her forever. He’s got his friends, his life, and his “becoming a man,” is adding to her sense of being unmoored.

I was inspired in part by the process of planning my own wedding. So much of my creative energy went into “writing” a narrative around the event: how it would go, and what each part would signify. Interestingly, I started writing fiction in earnest soon after I tied the knot.

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Sarah Seltzer: “After the Bar Mitzvah” from Joy Somewhere in the City, a Novel in Stories


Four days after the big event, Sharon continued to tally the compliments she’d received as hostess and mother of the bar-mitzvah boy. Her repetition—a meditation, a prayer—helped her to preserve it, to let it wash over her in hues of green, of deepest blue (her color scheme, of course) replaying like a saturated dream montage from a film.

Three guests had told Sharon that “Camp Cameron” surpassed all bar-mitzvahs they’d ever attended. Four had called it this year’s nicest. That totaled seven superlatives, as Cam, studying Latin, would tell her. True, most of the superlatives had come from friends with young children, out of competition range. No matter; it had been a coup. And that was French.

Sharon cleared the mail off the table and continued down her mental list:

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